YouTube plays to Google's strengths and interests alike

YouTube plays to Google's strengths and interests alike

Summary: There has been no shortage of reportage concerning the official transfer of YouTube's copyright concerns to the Googleplex.  See, e.

TOPICS: Google

There has been no shortage of reportage concerning the official transfer of YouTube's copyright concerns to the Googleplex.  See, e.g.:

But perhaps more than any other company in existence, Google is adept at encouraging copyright law to develop consistent with the realities of a connected world.  EFF's Fred von Lohmann both gets this and explains it well; in fact he read my mind:

YouTube has already been sued (by LA New Service), so Google is essentially buying that lawsuit. But I don't think that's a problem -- frankly, precedent set against YouTube will likely exert strong influence over the entire video hosting industry. So, in essence, Google is just getting more direct control over a lawsuit that is important for its existing and future business. And when it comes to lawsuits, Google has top-drawer talent (both in-house and in outside law firms), strategic vision, and a stellar track record. Google's executives (like AOL's and Yahoo's before them) understand that shaping the legal precedents is a critical part of their business.

And it's important to consider who are the people suing YouTube. I've thought for some time that the first lawsuits against YouTube (and other video hosting services) will be from small copyright owners (like LA News Service), not from major media companies. That's good news for YouTube (and Google). Small timers tend to lack the resources to bring top-drawer legal talent to bear in these fights. As a result, they often lose, creating useful precedents for the Google's of the world. In fact, Google has already been successful in securing good precedents against unsophisticated opponents who thought that they could squeeze a quick settlement out of Google (Field v. Google, Parker v. Google). What the small-timers don't appreciate is that Google would much rather spend money on setting a good precedent than on settling.

So I think the YouTube acquisition may well represent a legal opportunity for Google (and the Internet industry generally), rather than a vulnerability. After all, litigation to define the copyright rules for new online services is inevitable -- better to choose your battles and plan for them, rather than fleeing the fight and letting some other company create bad precedents that will haunt you later.

As summed up at the Wall Street Journal Online, John Palfrey agrees:  "From my vantage point, Google's investors should not be too worried, but rather applauding this transaction as just the next stage in a wild ride."

Topic: Google

Denise Howell

About Denise Howell

Denise Howell is an appellate, intellectual property and technology lawyer who enjoys broad industry recognition for her expertise on the intersection of emerging technologies and law.

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  • Wow, smart

    Getting to fight the battles that will later affect you, rather than leaving it in someone else's hands seems like a pretty smart strategy to me.
    tic swayback
  • Youtube is copyright titanic

    If Google/Youtube are not sued, I would be very surprised, maybe even shocked.
    • YouTube is already being sued

      They were being sued when Google bought them. There is no [b]When[/b] as it was a few months ago.

      Also the thing about the YouTube/Google's merge everyone is forgetting is that Google already had it's Google Video service. This service already had the same issues as YouTube. Really all the video services that host user generated content have them.
      Edward Meyers
  • Congress has shown interest...

    ... in copyright law issues involving the internet. The attitudes shown seem more concerned with risk than benefit.

    Given the vagaries of Court decisions in different places on related subjects, large media companies might consider having definite law better than limited precedent.

    Google's battle to pass the extra cost of providing high quality video onto all internet users will probably not be that company's last significant effort in Washington.
    Anton Philidor